(Review of Deep Work) Rule 1 Work Deeply

Deep Work by Cal Newport is a book that has been circulating in my network for the last two years. The book is about creating rituals and rhythms to have focused time on working and focusing deeply on things that matter, while removing distractions. Reducing shallow thinking times, disconnecting from social media and online surfing for long periods of time during the day are just some examples of reducing distractions.

In part 2 of his book, he starts with Rule #1: Work Deeply. Newport addresses the need to build habits and rituals because we get so easily distracted by the superficial. Newport says,

Unfortunately, when it comes to replacing distraction with focus, matters are not so simple. To understand why this is true let’s take a closer look at one of the main obstacles to going deep: the urge to turn your attention toward something more superficial. Most people recognize that this urge can complicate efforts to concentrate on hard things, but most underestimate its regularity and strength.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 98). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

CONFESSION: I know that when I begin to read a book or start a project, the moment I hit a tough problem, I go online or check social media sites. I go superficial real quick.

To say that we can just will ourselves past these temptations to be distracted is futile. Willpower is more like a muscle than an inherited trait. As Newport says,

“You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good news for me. I no longer shame myself for not having the “will” to muscle through deep thinking work. I need a different way to approach deep work.

This is where Newport offers the key motivating strategy and idea for engaging in deep work:

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration...if you deployed smart routines and rituals—perhaps a set time and quiet location used for your deep tasks each afternoon—you’d require much less willpower to start and keep going. In the long run, you’d therefore succeed with these deep efforts far more often.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The first strategy to develop healthy habits and rituals is to have a philosophy to integrate deep work into our working lives. There are a few different depth philosophies to integrate deep thinking and focused time. For the sake of encouraging people to buy the book, I’m offering a very quick one summary of each:

  1. The Monastic Philosophy: create deep efforts by eliminating or reducing shallow obligations. Works well for people who have singular goals in mind and have the kinds of jobs that allow for this type of schedule.
  2. The Bimodal Philosophy: dedicate stretches of time without interruptions and distractions (this would ideally be a dedicated whole day of deep work).
  3. The Rhythmic Philosophy: establish a simple routine/ritual schedule that removes the need to decide IF you should do deep work. This could be a set block of start and end time (i.e. waking up at 530 am and doing deep work for 2 hours).
  4. The Journalistic Philosophy: fitting deep work into your schedule whenever you can (this presupposes an ability to switch modes and go into deep work rather quickly…it’s not for a deep work novice).

We can develop our own philosophy so long as we follow some of the general guidelines from these. In all of these frameworks, the importance is that intentionality and active engagement are implemented (do it!). This can be an experimental time at first to see what works.

For example, I like to get up at 5am and meditate. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s followed up by 1.5 hours of focused deep work time. Since I have a full time job, I need the deep work time in the mornings (when I seem to be most fresh). I try not to go online when I’m getting bored or hit something hard in my deep work. That’s when I tend to get frustrated and want to be distracted.

Sermon On the Mount – More of God

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205&version=MSG;NIV

It reminds me of the first step in AA – “We admitted we were powerless”. There are a few times I’ve been at the end of my rope. And in many of these cases, it’s been my doing. I overcommit and try to take on too many things. This causes undue stress and I end up not doing anything well.

Admitting that I’m limited with scope, time, and talent is a relief. I can’t do every single thing I think about or want to do. Life is a season of ebbs and flows. There are times when I have bandwidth to try new things. But mostly, I’m a father and husband who is also a corporate chaplain. I have limits to my time and abilities.

Being at the end of my rope has caused me to say “I’m powerless”. I need help. I don’t know what to do but I’m open to there being less of me and more of God’s rule and reign.

I long to trust Abba (heavenly father) for the sake of trusting. Less of me and my own issues, and more of God’s rule and reign is a good thing in my life.

A Precious Container of Enough

I’m doing this Ignatian Spirituality Daily Devotional this month. It’s been great! Today’s was especially encouraging. I was listening to it on my run through the neighborhood.

A prayer I needed this morning. What I have (and offer) is enough…because it loves You!

“Lord,
I am a precious container of love,
genuine and costly.
When it is time to pour it out,
don’t let me get too lost in calculation,
or worry about wasting it.
Don’t let my desire to love others
get drowned out by the voices that tell me it’s pointless.
Give me the courage to break the jar,
and let me hear you say that what I offer is enough,
because it loves you.”

Jesuit Prayer inspired from the Gospel of Mark ch.14

https://www.pathwaystogod.org/day-22-challenge

Making Marriage Simple: Negativity is a wish in disguise (ch.7)

NOTE: I’m reading through “Making Marriage Simple, by Harville Hendrix and offering some overviews of the chapters. It’s a great go-to book for advice and practices to help nurture and restore marriage.

In ch 7, Hendrix says that negativity is a wish in disguise. This means behind the negative or hurtful thoughts, there’s an unmet desire. We long for something that is not being met. This is good news! It gives us insights as to what we CAN DO with our anger, hurt, or deep needs.

Hendrix offers simple ways to communicate these wishes in way that is responsible and clear enough for your partner to understand.

Here are a few steps (buy the book for the rest of them… 😉

1. Say it so your partner can hear (Use “I” statements such as “I feel lonely”, not “You are never home!”)

2. Be brief and clear (don’t ramble on and flood your partner with EVERYTHING)

3. Choose one frustration at a time (this will help your partner to respond)

4. Approach your partner when you’re feeling calm (it’s HOW and WHEN you say it that matters)

5. Never criticize, shame, blame, or analyze your partner.

Making Marriage Simple, by Harvile Hendrix (ch. 7)

You’ll have to read the rest for some additional tips on sharing the actual wish and behavioral change you’re looking for. It’s easy to read and understand. Go for it! Get it! 🙂

Staying Put in Your Relationship

I’ve been reading this book on marriage by Harville Hendrix on the recommendation of a good friend whose a psycho-analyst and therapist. It’s been helpful to work through my own patterns of thinking and emotions. (link here)

It is a lot harder to find our peaceful center when looking into the face of another—especially when that “other” may not be feeling at peace with us. And when our beloved is bugging us, forget it. Peace flies right out the window! For this reason, we say that one of the greatest spiritual paths is staying put in your relationship and learning how to really love your partner, warts and all. When you can validate your partner’s experience and express empathy—even when their experience makes absolutely no sense to you.

Hendrix, Harville. Making Marriage Simple: Ten Relationship-Saving Truths

Sometimes it’s tough being the person of peace. At other (most) times, it’s tough to be the wart. What Hendrix offers is a way to slow down and show each other empathy of the deepest kind.

He says (bullets and emphasis mine):

Elevating your relationship to this status transforms the Imago Process into a spiritual practice. Like meditation and prayer, Dialogue slows you down, quiets your mind, and invites you to…

*put aside those same old thoughts you obsessively think about over and over again.

*Instead, you simply Mirror back your partner’s words, and imagine how they are feeling, truly bearing witness to their experience.

*Then when you offer them a Caring Behavior and speak to them from the Owl instead of the Crocodile, you are unleashing the neurochemistry of Love.

*This feels great to you, and is great for your partner. The Divine is waiting to show up in the Space Between.

Hendrix, Harville. Making Marriage Simple: Ten Relationship-Saving Truths .

God is present and when we choose to be empathetic, listen, and hold each other’s pain, there is sacred space between both partners. God shows up!

God Loves Oceanside through People

God is in the business of renewal and justice. As such, I’m grateful to be part of a group of people (in tandem with people of peace and churches in Oceanside that have many decades of service) in Oceanside that are praying for revival and renewal.

We are daring (and humbly) ready to trust that God is at work in the city to renew and reconcile, and that He wants to do that through Osiders: human beings whom God has rescued, healed, and sent into this great city.

God has always had in mind to partner with humanity to rule and reign in this world. Through Jesus, he rescued and renewed us so that we might be agents of the Good News.

This Oceanside renewal project is based on God’s choosing of this city to see it prosper and bring hope. This is a movement of peopled called together in the name of Jesus to see justice, wholeness, and transformation happen among us.

God has always called and empowered His people to see His good purposes fulfilled. And God will continue to call people to be about this redemptive project.

God’s goodness will be enacted through a people called and empowered. And it is happening now! Not later. Now!

We’d love to hear your story and your heart for this great city! This is not our exclusive vision or purpose. It belongs to Christ and we’re grateful to be a part of it. Let’s collaborate and partner to see God’s good purposes accomplished in and through Oceanside.

Peace,

Roy (Pastor, Facilitator)

I am Not

I am not God.
I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t always trust.
I am not consistent.
I am not God.

I am broken.
I do break promises.
I am self-seeking at times.
I self-centered at times.
I fail.
I am frail at times.

I am not God.
I am not Lord.
I am not Savior.
I am not the source.

And that’s good news…

Being the Beloved

Pain is a teller of grief and loss.

[silence]

The hardest thing for me to believe is that I am loved and lovable. I can hide behind a veneer of victimization (“what about me” syndrome) as a zone to protect myself. But it leads to more sadness and depression. And then the voice of shame really goes to work on me, robbing me of any feeling of being at home with myself.

[silence]

I long to…

  • love and be loved
  • understand and be understood
  • see and be seen
  • value and be valued
  • hear and be heard
  • know and be known
  • like and be liked

[silence]

Like Mary looking for Jesus at the tomb, I too am looking for something that I’ve lost, something that gets taken from me: the voice of being loved. Failure, shame, guilt…take it from me.

Something has died in me and I’m looking for where it might have gone.

Why am I grieving? And what am I looking for? Two questions for the journey. I’ve lost the voice of being the beloved. I’m hoping to hear it again.

[silence]

“Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name – you are mine…
Because you are precious in my presence, you have been glorified,
and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Preparing to Preach

I came across this post on book recommendation geared for the weekly pastor-preacher. 

I found the book review post very helpful, given that I’ve had certain proclivities to prepping in the manner discussed but also about using the lectionary text. There’s a bit of liturgical theology that I feel drawn towards. 

I liked the idea of letting the text percolate throughout the week, allowing it to marinate and fill the imagination. Much of the work is listening to the text and Holy Spirit. That requires intentional listening and time.

It was encouraging to think through preaching prep from this perspective. It makes it feel more like a daily habit of listening to how the Word is providing daily bread for a meal to be spread out on preaching day.